a story about superlatives.

A few weeks ago, I got invited to join a Facebook group for my 10-year high school reunion because, evidently, I’m a lot older than I feel or would care to admit at this point in time.

It’s so fun to interact with these people again. No matter where we eventually ended up, we all have this crazy past experience in common — a collection of four years in which we all tried to grow up too fast but also be young and stupid at the same time, yielding countless memories of euphoric highs and heavy lows.

Naturally, senior year was my favorite. By the middle of the fall semester I’d already been accepted to all the colleges I’d applied to, so I tried my best to enjoy my final days in high school as much as I could.

(Read: I slacked off and, uh, let my hair down, if you will.)

One of the most fun parts about senior year was, of course, the Senior Superlatives for the yearbook. I’ll never forget the day we were filling out our ballots. The room was all abuzz about Who are you voting for Biggest Flirt? Best Hair? Most Likely to Succeed?

Then, of course, Best Looking.

“Oh, I don’t know who to pick,” I told one of my guy friends.

“I’m picking you,” he said.

“No you’re not!”

“Yes I am. Watch me.”

Sure enough, he wrote my name in on his ballot for Best Looking. My name. Mine! For Best Looking!

For an insecure girl battling an eating disorder, that was the best news ever!

Now, to be fair, he probably only did that because a) in a class of more than 500 people it’s hard to think of one person and I happened to be sitting right in front of him at the time or b) because he wanted to be nice or c) he wanted to get into my pants and I had no idea.

Still, I was very flattered. So flattered, in fact, that I couldn’t wait to tell my boyfriend.

My boyfriend at the time was a year older than me, already knee-deep in his freshman year of college in another state, and, as I would later discover thanks to the at-the-time-very-newfangled internet, absolutely cheating on me.

“I got voted for Best Looking!” I almost screamed into the phone.

“Oh?” He said.

“Yeah! Isn’t that wild?”

Then, without missing a beat, with the flattest voice, he replied, “Your class president should win that category.”

If I’d had a mouth full of water, I would have done the most epic spit take.

“I’m sorry?”

“Not to be mean, but she is the prettiest girl in your class.”

“Are you serious right now?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. First of all, he was right. She was definitely the prettiest girl in our class. Second of all, she was a friend of mine, and he knew that. Third of all, I was his freaking girlfriend! Anyone with a brainstem knows that, regardless of the validity of a statement like that, you don’t bloody say it!

“Yeah, I mean, no offense. If she weren’t in your class I’d vote for you.”

Nice save.

For the record, I am still friends with this beautiful girl. I never told her this story but I wish I would have because I know we would have laughed our faces off about it. Perhaps at the reunion?

Ten years later, I’d all but forgotten about this little exchange until the Facebook group brought back a tidal wave of memories, both great and (like this one) less than great.

To be honest, I don’t remember who won Best Looking. Or Most Likely to Succeed. Or Best Hair. (And I have no idea where my yearbook is — oops — so it’s not like I can look this stuff up.) But, you see, here’s the thing.

Ten years ago, my life hinged on whether or not people found me attractive. If they did, I felt like I was worth something. If they didn’t, it was crushing because I was convinced it meant I was useless.

Today, I know that isn’t the case.

I have a wonderful husband and a devastatingly beautiful son and a life that is so full, so abundant, that it has exceeded any and all dreams and hopes I’d ever had for myself.

I am radically loved by so many people. My God and myself included. And I am grateful.

So. Here’s a message to all you young ladies in high school right now who are praying to whomever you worship that you’ll be voted Best Looking. Or that your boyfriend won’t cheat on you. Or that you’ll lose ten pounds before prom. Or that you’ll go from a B to a C cup by your junior year.

Listen to me. Listen good. 

I know all of this seems important. Like earth-shatteringly important. And I’m not here to tell you that it’s not because it was for me, too. But what I am here to tell you is this:

Just wait. It gets so much better than this.

Ten years from now, you will look back and laugh at yourself for ever thinking (or caring) that you were fat or ugly or lonely. You will look around you and see all the blessings you have because of your brain and your heart and your talents and your demeanor and you will wonder why you ever thought any differently. So just hang in there.

Oh — and for Christ’s sake, eat something.

mom finds “diet list” in her 7-year-old daughter’s room.

You read that subject line right. According to this post on Mommyish, a mother found a heartbreaking “diet list”, complete with documentation of daily food intake and exercises, on the floor of her 7-year-old daughter’s bedroom.

I can’t even imagine.

It’s been a while since I’ve written about something like this. I’m grateful for that fact, truly, because any time I come across something like this every hope and dream I have about the world in which we live dies just a little bit more.

Sorry for the melodrama but here’s the deal — I have a kid now. Not that this wouldn’t have pissed me off a year ago, but it’s a little different now that I’m a parent. In a moment of fleeting amnesia, I forgot how terrible the world can be sometimes, so I decided to bring a little life into it. So I had a little boy. A little boy who will sit next to little girls in his classes at school. Girls he will talk to and possibly befriend. Or fall in love with. A little boy whose utterances about girls’ appearances could either be encouraging or incredibly damaging.

See, people? Now it’s personal.

Anyway — here’s a picture of the “diyet” list this poor mother found.

diet_list

If you read the article, you’ll find that the mother’s discovery of her 7-year-old’s diet plan sends her into a tailspin of parental questions, as I’m sure would be the case for any warm-blooded parent with a heartbeat and a brain stem — How did my daughter learn about diets? Did she hear this from me? Was it from someone at school? Was it something on TV? 

I’ve only been a parent for 7 and a half months, but I am already wracked with so much mom-guilt it’s not even funny. Guilt because I work full time. Guilt because my son once choked on a piece of carrot that somehow didn’t get pureed enough. Guilt because he’s teething and so nursing isn’t exactly his favorite thing at the moment. The idea that I’m hurting my child in any way causes me paralyzing grief each day; I can’t imagine the pain I’d feel in my gut if I ever knew that my child didn’t like himself and that feeling was somehow tied back to something I said or did.

The reality is that we do live in a broken world, one that puts so much emphasis on our outward appearance that it’s literally (in this case at least) destroying our youth. We can’t get away from airbrushed magazine covers or commercials for diet pills or anti-aging cream. But what we can control are the words that come out of our own mouths.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are beautiful. You are strong. You are capable. You are worth so much more than your skin color or weight or height or eye color or anything gives you credit for. 

Here’s the thing, though. I sincerely doubt this mother ever told her 7-year-old she needed to go on a diet. I also find it highly unlikely that this mother ever uttered anything to her daughter that might suggest she didn’t like her appearance at all. I’m sure this mom doted on her daughter every day like all of us would our own children. So what’s the disconnect?

While it’s extremely important to make sure we say these things to our children (both boys and girls) as well as our friends and family, we’ve got to start with us. The words we say to ourselves are just as important, if not more so. They’re not just heard by us; they’re heard by others. Especially, I’d argue, the littlest ones. The ones we wish couldn’t hear us the most.

What if she heard her mom complaining about her body? What if this woman (who, at this stage in life, is her daughter’s main example for womanhood) offhandedly commented on her lovehandles or something like we all tend to do? And what if this little girl just assumed that’s what life is like for a girl these days? To be unhappy with her body?

Furthermore, what if this little girl was a classmate of Dax’s? And what if she had no idea what a diet was, but when talking to Dax, learned I was on a diet.

“What’s a diet?” she might inquire.

“My mom says she has to eat less food because she’s fat,” he might respond, if he were to repeat anything I’ve ever said around him concerning my own body.

Let’s break this cycle. Let’s start with us. Let’s talk about ourselves positively and encourage others to do the same. Let’s tell our children they are the perfect creations they are. Let’s end this.

Now.

julia bluhm vs. seventeen.

I think I’ve mentioned Julia Bluhm before, but I couldn’t find it when I searched my blog archives for all of 0.5 seconds. At any rate, this amazing little middle-schooler has done something incredible. While I, a 20-something blogger in Florida, sit down and piss and moan on the Internet about how magazine companies shouldn’t Photoshop models or celebrities in order to protect impressionable youth, Julia is actually doing something about it. 

This amazing 8th grader was sick of hearing girls in her ballet class complain about being fat, so she started a petition to get Seventeen Magazine to stop misrepresenting women in their publication by publishing at least one unaltered photo an issue. Some 84,000 (yes, you read that number right) signatures later, the unthinkable happened — she won and then some.

According to this article from Think Progress, Seventeen agreed to her terms, but they even went a step further. The magazine offered to start representing girls and women from all shapes and sizes without using Photoshop on their bodies at all. (They did say, however, that they’d still use Photoshop to edit away wrinkles in clothes and flyaway hairs.)

Here’s a picture of their new Body Peace Treaty, alongside a picture to illustrate what to expect from Seventeen going forward:

And, if you click here, you’ll see a Body Peace Pledge that is posted on Seventeen‘s website to which girls can add their signatures. I particularly love the first statement (“I vow to remember that the sun will still rise tomorrow even if I had one too many slices of pizza or an extra scoop of ice cream tonight.”) and the last statement (“I vow to accept that beauty isn’t just about my looks. It’s my awesome personality and my energy that creates a whole, unique package.”)

Hear, hear!

Oh. And don’t think Julia’s done yet. She’s developed another petition to get Teen Vogue to follow in Seventeen‘s footsteps.

I can’t deny how giddy this makes me. Assuming Seventeen sticks to its word, this will be huge for the self-love movement and for young girls worldwide. However, I’m trying to curb my enthusiasm for fear of being let down later. I mean, if they’re still using Photoshop to smooth away wrinkles, what’s to keep an editor from discreetly splicing an arm or a boob or something?

No matter. For now, we have their word. And furthermore, we have proof that we are actually being heard. 

Great job, Julia! I wish we could all be as strong and badass as you are.

double standards for objectification — thoughts on “magic mike”.

This weekend I found myself in a really bizarre position.

My husband and I were sitting on our couch talking, and while I was droning on about something, he was mindlessly scrolling through his Facebook feed on his phone. In the middle of one of my sentences, he let out a big, dramatic sigh.

“My friend just posted on Facebook about how she’s going to see Magic Mike and is just so excited about it.”
“Yeah, I’ve been meaning to blog about Magic Mike,” I replied, “so I’ll probably go see it. You know, for research.”
“Do you really need to see it for research? I mean, you know what it’s about.”
“Yeah, but I want to form an educated opinion,” I offered.
“No, you just want to go see someone you wish I looked like.”

Source: IMDB

Whoa. Pump the brakes there, Dan. You’re not allowed to be insecure about your body. I have a patent on that. That’s my job and you have no right to feel that way. I can drool over hot dudes all day and you need to be comfortable enough in your own skin to let me do that. 

Wait.

By the way, to catch you up in the event that you’ve been living under a rock: Magic Mike is a film in which Channing Tatum plays a stripper. That’s all I know about it. I assume there is some semblance of a plot, but honestly, who cares? It’s Channing Tatum! Stripping! No redemptive quality (read: art) required!

Like Dan’s, my Facebook feed is also all a-flutter with my friends posting about staring at a mostly-naked Channing Tatum for 110 minutes. And I mean, who could blame them? That sounds like it can’t be a bad way to spend a Saturday night, especially if you fork over the big bucks to see his junk in 3D.

I guess I can’t fault them for wanting to spend time gawking at a scantily clad man (whose abs are, to quote Emma Stone from Crazy, Stupid, Love, “basically photoshopped!”). Except for the fact that if this were a movie about a female stripper, we’d all be up in arms over it. 

Could you imagine what our Facebook/Twitter feeds would look like if it was Magic Melissa instead? Starring, oh I don’t know, Rachel McAdams or ScarJo? I can’t help but think that things would look just a tad bit different. I have a feeling that my girlfriends, the same ones publicly proclaiming their overactive salivary glands over Channing Tatum, would be disappointed that, yet,  another film has come out that hyper-sexualizes and objectifies women. How dare you, Hollywood. How dare you.

So why is it okay when it’s Channing Tatum? Why is it that we can objectify men without blinking but get pissed off when a female celebrity expresses some sort of sexual prowess, whether it be in a magazine or movie or what have you? And what about when a dude cat-calls us on the street? Typically, when this happens, we scoff, then publicly scorn the “damned media” and “society” for reinforcing the idea that objectifying women is okay.

Now. I’m not saying you’re a horrible person for wanting to see Channing Tatum strip. Please don’t get me wrong. I’d be lying (and also implying that the blood in my veins runs ice cold) if I said I wasn’t somewhat interested in seeing the movie. But what I am saying is that we can’t be pissed off about our men ogling over women in the media and then turn around and do the exact same thing. Either we love it, or we hate it. Either it’s acceptable or it isn’t. We can’t have our cake and eat it, too.

(Considering the subject matter, that’s a really awkward phrase to use. I apologize.)

What do you think about Magic Mike?

snow white and the twisted self-image.

I didn’t really like the story of Snow White growing up, particularly Disney’s famed portrayal of the narrative. Not that the story wasn’t, I don’t know, compelling, or anything. But the dwarves freaked me out, even if they did sing catchy songs about going to work, and Snow White herself seemed like a really weak protagonist. (Yes, I had these thoughts as a five-year-old.)

But, now that I’m older, I figured I’d give the “real” Snow White a shot. So, this weekend, one of my girlfriends and I went to go see Snow White and the Huntsman. I very much enjoyed the film, despite it being my first exposure to Kristen Stewart’s “acting” skills and the obvious fact that the story is much darker than Disney has ever led any of us to believe. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the real story of Snow White, sans Dopey, here’s the way it breaks down in a nutshell. (Oh, and yeah, don’t read if you don’t want to hear spoilers. I guess.)

Source

A pretty girl is born to a king and a queen. They name her Snow White. The queen dies suddenly from some illness which sucks. Some crazy sorceress lady who is unhealthily obsessed with an enchanted talking mirror (and also has some weird, creepy relationship with her brother) shows up and seduces the king. He marries her the next day, obvs. She then kills the king because, again, she’s legit cray cray. She locks Snow White in a tower because Snow White is, according to this talking mirror, the prettiest girl in all the land and she, Queen of the Cray, just can’t handle that. Snow White escapes and gets stuck in some horrible dark forest that screws with your brain a la a bad bath salts trip. (Relevant.) Queen Cray hires a very sexy, yet brooding and mysterious, huntsman to go find Snow White with the promise of bringing his dead wife back, even though she’s clearly not powerful enough to do that because HELLO THAT’S RIDICULOUS. Anyway, Hunky Huntsman goes and immediately finds Snow White face down in bath salt mud in the forest as if girlfriend was attached to some Snow White GPS monitoring system. She convinces him to help her escape Queen Cray instead of taking her to him. Even though he’s very distraught over the recent passing of his wife, he falls in love with her instantly because she’s gorgeous (natch) and agrees to help get her to safety. Meanwhile, Queen Cray imprisons all of the young girls in the land and sucks the life/beauty/youth out of them to remain young and beautiful while they age and die. It’s kind of Harry Potter/Dementor-ish, actually. Blah blah blah, there are some fairies and dwarves and craziness, and then Snow White is tricked by Queen Cray (who shows up in the form of Snow White’s childhood love interest) into eating a poisoned apple that “kills” her. But she’s actually not dead! She’s just under a spell that can only be broken by “true love’s kiss”! But no one talks about it! So when Snow White’s childhood love interest finds her all dead-looking, he kisses her sadly. But she doesn’t revive. GASP! Later on, though, Hunky Huntsman lays one on her that evidently does the trick. Snow White wakes up like she was just napping or something and then they go and fight Queen Cray and eventually kill her. Then Snow White takes her rightful place on the throne. The end!

Phew. Got all that? Okay. Much different than Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, right? And I’m not just talking about the lack of high-pitched singing.

So, let’s point out the most twisted flaw about this story (which, granted, was written approximately a billion years ago).

The main conflict of the story is that a girl is prettier than her stepmom (and I guess everyone else in the land, too) and the stepmom is just NOT OKAY WITH THIS. So much so, that she’s willing to kill any and everyone standing in her way of being the “fairest of them all”. (Side note: I’ve had fair skin my whole life and I’m still waiting for paleness to be in fashion. What gives?)

So. What can we learn from this?

Let’s say that Snow White represents us: you, me, women. Just by being born, just by existing, we are all “fairest” of the land. We are all beautiful, fearfully and wonderfully made, exactly the way we are, right? Well, not until some overbearing ruler (societal beauty standards) steps in with some stupid magic mirror (Photoshop, perhaps? The media in general? The diet industry? All of the above?) and vows to destroy us by any means necessary in order to communicate what is truly “fairest” in all the land.

The cool thing about this story, when viewed through this metaphor, is that — spoiler alert — Snow White is the only one who can defeat the Queen. They are tied together due to some spell and/or curse. Therefore, Snow White is the “chosen” one, if you will, that must drive the sword through the Queen in order for her to actually die and allow for Snow White to rightfully reign.

I think the same holds true for us. Because we are women born into this society, we have been “cursed” since birth to be abused by a beauty-obsessed world. However! We are the ones who hold the power to destroy its influence in our lives and regain rule over our self esteems. By looking in our own mirrors and seeing ourselves the way we were meant to be seen, beautiful inside and out, we are doing the same thing Snow White does to the Queen at the end. We stare Queen Cray, and everything about her that makes us feel bad about ourselves, in the face and say, “No! You are a liar! You are evil! I’M the fairest of them all!” And, in doing so, swiftly drive a sword right through her.

Only then can we regain our rightful place on the throne of our lives.

guest post: WOW wednesday on m2hf.

All throughout the month of May, my good friend Lindsey is asking “Women of Wisdom” to write guest posts on her blog each Wednesday. I’m honored to be one of the people she asked to contribute. Today, my post is up on her blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

…There are certainly two ways you can gain wisdom – you can live through some “real stuff” and you can surround yourself with and try to learn from those whom have lived through some “real stuff.”

Even though I’m only 26, I’ve already had to live through some pretty intense stuff: growing up with an absentee father, suffering from an eating disorder, being treated for mental illness… But, I think, the hardest piece of life I ever had to live was two and a half years of an abusive relationship. I couldn’t get out of it because I was afraid I’d get even more hurt than I already was on a daily basis. So I stayed. And it was awful.

Click here to read the rest of the post. And don’t forget to check out the rest of her blog as well!

Happy WOW Wednesday!

things i love thursday! (april 26, 2012)

It’s hard to believe it’s only been a week. So much has happened. So many wonderful things. We are so blessed. On to this week’s list of love.

THINGS THAT MADE ME SMILE THIS WEEK:

  • Having a wonderful place to stay with friends we adore.
  • Being able to blog, thanks to a friend loaning me her laptop.
  • Chrissie’s bachelorette party! Yeah!
  • Sparkly shoes.
  • The rehearsal and rehearsal dinner.
  • Disposable cameras, and Gary’s use of them.
  • Finally getting Chrissie married off. What a gorgeous wedding!
  • Being able to hang out with good friends during said wedding.
  • Shirley Temples.
  • Hanging out with Stephen and Ashley finally. We’ve only been trying to do that for a year and a half.
  • Hearing my sweet little boy’s heartbeat this morning.
  • Walking around the neighborhood.
  • “Camping” with my husband.
  • Mocha frappes.
  • Sweet friends buying us dinner.
  • Brownies.
  • Seeing the kitties and Nikki and Chris!
  • Naps in my car.
  • Hanging out with my girlfriends.
  • Being prayed for.
  • Bible study shenanigans and birth analogies.
  • Baby Isaiah snuggles.
  • Chocolate (shocking, I know).
  • Being part of a wonderful, generous, supportive community.
  • Frozen yogurt.
  • Sleep.
  • Baby kicks.
  • Life.
  • God.

What do you love this week?